Brazilian culture is one of the most diverse and fascinating in the world. An incredible range of nationalities, beginning with European and African, have fused together over centuries making Brazil’s population one of the most complex. Many nationalities still hold on to their roots, demonstrating a wide variety of customs and traditions that have also been greatly influenced by co-existence with other ethnic backgrounds. From European domination to slavery and beyond, today Brazil’s culture rests on a foundation comprised of a patchwork of traditions and belief systems fused together in a rare and colorful national combination. Portuguese is the official language spoken.
For such a diverse culture, Brazil does exhibit many unified customs and traditions. Informal, relaxed and direct in their approach, Brazilians in general are animated and intimate when communicating; they speak within close physical reach, often with small touches and gestures. Socially, there is still a class system, with those in perceivably lower status jobs, such as housemaids and construction workers, generally avoiding eye contact with those they see as above them. Alternate cheek kissing is also common between male and female and two females, usually two to three times. As for time, Brazilians place more emphasis on human needs than punctuality and therefore are often considered tardy by North America standards. Public transportation is still reliable and generally on schedule.
Traditional foods come in a huge array of flavors and textures. Distinct cultures each introduced key ingredients now used in Brazilian foods. Though a mix of African and European food traditions are predominant, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese dishes are also commonplace in Brazilian culture.
The most substantial meal is lunch, which ends with a bold coffee. Meals are usually home cooked. The national dish, Feijoada, concocted by plantation and estate slaves, is a thick stew of black beans served with an assortment of meats, greens, and rice. Rice and beans is a staple Brazilian dish eaten with any combination of salads, eggs, meat, and farofa, a type of toasted flour derived from corn or manioc. Fruits and (mainly root) vegetables, grilled meats, and pastry-filled edibles are also traditional foods.
Meals, which are generally made from scratch, are important events. Friends and family view this time as both a time to refuel and connect. Street food is also popular. Main streets are buzzing with people milling around food stalls (feira) offering a slew of fresh foods including grilled meat, deep-fried pastries, and other staples.
Of the 190 million-plus people living in Brazil, about 90 percent include religion as a major part of their lives. In 1891, following the Brazilian Republican Constitution, freedom of religion was permitted in Brazil. By current statistics, the country is home to the largest number of Catholics in the world. It is the number one religion followed by Protestantism, The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Eastern Orthodox. The African religion Yoruba (combining African and Brazilian traditions that equal numerous distinct Afro-Brazilian faiths) along with Judaism, Buddhism, Shinto, and Rastafarian are also found within Brazil, brought into Brazilian culture over centuries.
Top image: Prefeitura de Olinda (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0